This month’s array of food magazines at the newsstand focuses on one concept: Comfort, as in comfort food; braised meats; hearty soups and stews; hearth and home; returning to traditional culinary roots. One reason for this ubiquity must be the season, of course; it’s wintery in many parts of the country. I can’t help thinking that another, collective, perhaps unconscious reason is the inauguration and the brand-new, promise-filled presidency of Barack Obama, whose unprecedented ascent to the most powerful office in the world implies a tremendous sense of hope (if not virtue) in the American people.

Keeping with that theme — comfort, if not hope — I offer a dozen wines perfectly designed to match the basic satisfaction we derive from succulent braised short ribs and veal or lamb shanks; from dense meat loaf and meaty pork chops; from lentil soup, thick with earthy chunks of ham, and beef stew, its rich broth filled with tender meat and potatoes and carrots. Know what I mean? Hungry yet?

Because our theme is comfort, these red wines are hearty (or hardy) but not huge, not overwhelming with alcohol or oak or extraction. I want them to match comfort food with comfortable flavors and textures; on the other hand, there are no wimpy wines here.
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Let’s start with a favorite, the Borsao 2007, a blend of 75 percent garnacha (grenache) and 25 percent tempranilllo from Spain’s borsao.jpg Campo de Borja region, which lies just to the southeast of the Rioja region and northwest of the ancient city of Zaragoza, famous in song and story as the city that Charlemagne could not conquer. As is typical of this wine, the version for ’07 is robust and rustic, bursting with black currant, black cherry and blueberry flavors packed with notes of sandalwood and cloves, foresty tannins and dark chocolate-tinged oak, all melded by the essential element of lively acidity. That’s it, but sometimes that’s all you need. Very Good. About $11, often discounted to $8 or $9.
A Jorge Ordonez Selection, imported by Star Distributors, Memphis, Tenn.
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Goodnight is a second label of Firestone Vineyard, which was founded in 1972 and was the first estate winery in Santa Barbara County. The Foley Wine Group acquired Firestone in 2007. (Foley Estates, in the Santa Rita Hills, makes fine chardonnay and pinot noir wines.) I thought that the Goodnight Pinot Grigio 2007, Chardonnay ’07, Merlot ’05 and Cabernet Sauvignon ’05 were nicely done, but the Goodnight Zinfandel 2006, Central Coast, stood out because of additional detail and sense of dimension. The wine ages 18 months in a combination of French and American oak; there’s 10 percent syrah, seven percent petite sirah and 4 percent “other” in the blend. The wine is bright and spicy, delicious with vivid blackberry and cherry-berry flavors nestled into a texture that comes close to being luscious without sacrificing the seriousness of structure embedded in briary and brambly qualities wrapped up by a touch of woody austerity on the finish. Very Good, and Good Value at about $14.
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If you can find the Heron Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, California, anywhere, buy it by the case. Sporting a mild but effective 13 percent alcohol, this irresistible cabernet is a lovely medium purple-magenta color. Aromas of smoke, minerals and earth, cedar, tobacco and black pepper wreathe notes of ripe and slightly roasted black currants and black cherries. The wine is dense and chewy in the mouth, with grainy tannins that permeate succulent and very spicy black currant and black cherry flavors. Aged a judicious eight months in French oak, the wine delivers a firm yet yielding structure that opens to reveal a hint of underbrush and dried porcini on the finish. There’s a lot of heart here for the price. Very Good+ and a phenomenal bargain at about $14.
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Here’s a malbec that starts wild and ripe and exuberant, but quickly tames itself with sensible measures of oak and tannin. The Tiza Malbec 2006, Mendoza, slathers blackberry jam atop black currant and blueberry, this exceedingly flavorful fruit deeply imbued with earth, minerals and baking spice. A few moments in the glass bring in polished oak and chewy tannins, hints of dried flowers and dried spice, and finally, toward the back of the mouth, layers of briers, brambles and underbrush that temper (but do not intimidate) the luxurious nature of the fruit. Quite tempting. Very Good+. About $20.
The vintage on the label illustration is one year off.
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va.
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I said no wimpy wines, and the Raymond Reserve Merlot 2005, Napa Valley, with 10 percent cabernet sauvignon, certainly fits that description. It opens with a tremendously rich, ripe, spicy bouquet that seethes with smoke and minerals, black currant, black raspberry and highlights (or, I guess lowlights) of black pepper. There’s more black pepper in the mouth, sprinkled among intense and concentrated black fruit flavors, hints of dark chocolate and ancho chili and a bit of lavender. This all sounds like a parade of extravagance, but the wine is actually structured along stern lines, with multiple plies of rugged oak and grainy tannins. Wow, bring on the barbecue brisket! Drink now through 2012. Excellent. About $24.
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We drank the Two Angels Divinity 2006, High Valley, Lake County, on Pizza-and-Movie Night, and our first reaction was “Yum!” Indeed, but there has to be more than the yum-factor in a wine that costs anywhere over about $15, and Divinity ’06 has its serious side, too. This blend of 52 percent syrah, 22 percent grenache and 20 percent mourvèdre is a faithful rendition of a well-made Côtes-du-Rhône, but with the addition of 6 percent petite sirah. The result is a snazzy, sapid and supple wine, deep, dark and spicy, eminently savory in its ripe, macerated black currant, black cherry, blueberry and mulberry scents and flavors tinged with mushroom-like earthiness, smoke and bacon fat. That fruit is luscious on the palate but controlled by shaggy tannins and slightly spicy/woody oak from 10 months’ aging in 70 percent French and 30 percent American barrels (35 percent new). The finish brings up some earthy and minerally austerity along with a trace of wild berry and lavender. The first release of this wine; 500 cases were made. Excellent. About $25.
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What I love about the X Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Napa Valley, is that every iota of its gushingly delicious fruit is permeated by formidable tannic, mineral austerity. Or is it that every iota of tannic, mineral austerity is permeated by delicious fruit? In either case, the wine serves as a primary model of the way in which these two essential elements in a wine’s composition balance and reinforce each other. (And let’s not forget scintillating acidity, the kind that seemingly could move mountains if it were patient enough.) This is a blend, with 10 percent merlot and 2 percent petit verdot. That mineral bite is right up front, along with succulent black currant and black cherry flavors that are dusty, chewy and savory. Lip-smacking tannins resonate through the wine, like the figured bass in an organ fugue. The alcohol level, 14.4 percent, feels like a matter of nonchalance; it’s there, it’s spare, so deal with it. Drink now through 2012 or ’13. Production was 997 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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Of this dozen wines, the Rosemount Show Reserve GSM 2005, McLaren Vale, shows its gravity the most. A blend of 47 percent rose_gsm_res04th.jpggrenache, 47 percent syrah and 6 percent mourvèdre, it’s a dark, earthy, dusty Rhône-style wine, bursting with luscious — that word again! — black currant, blueberry and plum flavors wrapped around a furnace of orange rind, lavender, licorice and minerals powered by spanking acidity and polished tannins. Smoke and tar come up, dried spices and spicy oak — 70 percent of the wine ages 18 months in barrels (half new) — and deep down glowers a reserve of invincible tannins. This requires your heartiest fare; braised lambs shanks would be perfect. Drink now through 2012 or ’15. Excellent. About $25.
FWE Imports, Napa, Ca.
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All the hallmarks of the grape are present in the Two Angels Petite Sirah 2006, High Valley, except for the sometimes overbearing ripeness and strident tannins that can be a burden. The petite sirah grapes for this wine came from the Shannon Ridge Vineyard, an outfit that produces its own splendid wines. This, anyway, is bright and deep and wild, rollicking with dried spice and a combination of fresh, ripe blackberries and black currants with notes of dried blueberries and mulberry. It’s layered with dark bitter chocolate, violets and leather, sandalwood, smoke and ash; grainy tannins and sleek minerals are packed in tightly, while oak — 10 months in French and American barrels, only 30 percent new — lends grace and firmness to the structure. Drink now through 2012 or ’13. Excellent. About $27.
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I suppose venison isn’t high on too many people’s list of comfort food; obtaining and roasting venison is not like throwing together a meatloaf on Saturday afternoon. If, however, you did have venison on hand, or “deer meat,” the Baron de Ley Reserva Rioja 2003, would be a sure bet. Made from 100 percent tempranillo grapes in Spain’s most famous wine region, this wine is a medium ruby-garnet color — no deep, inky purples here — and offers aromas of spiced and macerated red and black currants, mulberries and plums. It’s a bright and vibrant wine, deeply floral and spicy, with hints of tar and black tea and moderately dense tannins for framing and foundation. Nothing flamboyant here, but a wine of enthusiastic nuance and detail, spareness nicely balanced with dynamism. Very Good+. About $28.
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York.
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I’ll go ahead and say that the Bressia Monteagrelo Malbec 2006 is one of the best malbec wines I have tried from Mendoza. It’s big and hearty, mouth-filling, rich and savory, with tremendous presence and personality. Oak is there, no joke, but it’s deftly integrated with the wine’s other essential qualities. Some wild berry lends exciting gloss to the ripe and macerated richness of black and blue fruit scents and flavors, all of this poised over reserves of tannin and minerals. Despite its size and substance, this is a malbec that in harmony and balance comes close to being elegant. We drank this with one of our standard cold weather dishes, pork chops marinated in chili powder and cumin and then sauteed with garlic and lime juice and put into the oven for 10 minutes. The pork chops always come out moist, tender and flavorful. Drink through 2014 or ’16. Excellent. About $31.
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va.
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The Grgich Hills Estate Zinfandel 2006, Napa Valley, is powerful without being obvious or rustic. It sees 15 months in oak, but in large French casks, not the standard small barrel of Bordeaux and Burgundy and everywhere else. The alcohol level, 14.9 percent, is the highest of this group of wines, yet this wine never seems sweetish or overheated, just vibrant and resonant. It is, in fact, smooth and harmonious, while at the same time bristling with robust earthy elements, cinnamon and cloves and black pepper, briers and brambles. Fruit is classic for a Napa zinfandel: black currant and black raspberry imbued with touches of blueberry and almost transparent mulberry — the wine contains 5 percent petite sirah. The structure is dense and chewy, and a little grainy, with the polished tannins packed in though not interfering with the wine’s exquisite balance. Drink now through 2012 or ’14. Excellent. About $35.
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